OT: Adding to the list of fantasies I must abandon
At the doctor’s, while my father’s eyes are being examined yet again, and I’m flipping through Good Housekeeping, musing about what to make for dinner and thinking that this magazine offers the definitive evidence that I’m not a very good housekeeper, the nurse says, “Michaela, can I talk to you while your dad’s with doctor?”
(It hasn’t come up in a while, but Michaela is Servetus’s first name.)
I sit down, obligingly. Because my parents both had troubles with their own parents in this regard, I have had both my parents’ written permission to speak with their doctors about their health and treatment options for ten years. Still, I have the feeling I’m about to be enmeshed in questionable ethics, into transgressing for the most well-meaning of reasons.
“Michaela,” she says, “how is your dad’s drinking?”
“A lot better than when I was a kid,” I say. This is not a lie.
“Would you say he’s sober this morning?” she persists.
“I don’t know,” I say. This is a lie.
“Doctor is concerned that when he comes to appointments drunk, he can’t answer questions about his vision accurately,” she continues.
“I can imagine,” I say. For much of his life, my father was better in charge of himself while drunk than a lot of men are while sober. But alcohol affects the elderly brain differently. He used to have his speech centers under better control.
“Can you try to make sure that he’s sober when you bring him in for examinations?”
I smile at her and say I’ll do my best. Minnesota nice extends to Wisconsin.
Like if I had any influence at all over my father’s drinking, I wouldn’t have exercised it years ago.
I pause a moment, and say, “I think it would be more effective if doctor said that to him directly.”
“He has, but your father hasn’t changed his behavior, and it’s a little embarrassing for him,” she says.
So he passes that on, so it’s embarrassing for you to have to raise it with me, I think, and I’m embarrassed, then, too. We’re all so fucking embarrassed except the person who should be.
“It is really important,” she emphasizes.
I think: if it’s really important, tell him you won’t treat him unless he’s sober.
And yet I know from my own life: we are not all in control of all of our decisions all the time. We do things we wish we didn’t do, things we don’t understand and can’t explain.
I think: He couldn’t be sober for his wife or his children or G-d or now, for himself.
I think: He will never be sober.
Dad comes out of the exam office and we go to the receptionist to make the next appointment.